VA To Allow iPhones, iPads For Work Use: RIM’s Playbook AWOL

Research in Motion (NSDQ: RIMM) may be tight with the U.S. federal government when it comes to the official use of mobile devices, but at least one federal organization is thinking different. The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs announced Monday that it has approved a pilot project paving the way toward the use of Apple’s iPhones and iPads inside the VA.

Roger Baker, chief information officer for the department, announced the plan in a press conference covered by Bloomberg. The idea is to allow VA employees to bring their personal iPhones and iPads into work and connect to the department’s internal networks, allowing them to access e-mail and perhaps at some point pull up records pertaining to veterans being treated by the department’s hospitals and outpatient centers.

“There are a ton of medical applications that have been developed in the private sector for those devices,” Baker told Bloomberg. “There’s a demand for those from our clinicians.” (Full disclosure: I know firsthand how the VA has been thinking about using mobile devices and applications, as my mother-in-law works for the department as an occupational therapist and has explored ways to use mobile technology as part of treatment programs for veterans.)

The VA hopes to extend the iOS love to all employees by Oct. 1. It will also purchase some number of the devices for internal use, according to the report, although it apparently didn’t commit to a specific number.

The move is just one more example of how Apple’s mobile device renaissance has changed the way companies and large government organizations deploy technology. Decisions regarding which technology would be used by a business were almost always made at the upper levels of an IT department, but the explosion of iPhones and now iPads has forced companies to adjust as employees insist on using their own devices for work purposes.

That’s not good news for RIM, which has counted on enterprise IT departments as one of its strongest constituencies for years and has long been a favorite of the U.S. government because of its security features: President Obama carries a special BlackBerry. Just last week RIM’s first tablet, the Playbook, gained federal certification, but apparently not all departments plan to go down that route.